Sunrise over the Stardancer Yard
I was up early, and hit the ground a runnin'. Fed the team and scooped the yard, fed the big primate who rides on the sled, and then headed to town for the official start of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
I found a convenient parking spot and quickly found "my" musher, Josh Cadzow, conferring with one of his handlers. I really like the trailer mounted warm-up shack that Josh's dad built for the team and especially for the team's crew of handlers, who will be spending a GREAT deal of time on the road, chasing the race, cleaning up after their musher at checkpoints, caring for dropped dogs and all the duties associated with handling for a long-distance musher. Josh told me his father also built his race sled, and a detailed inspection shows it is extremely well built and heartily fortified for rough trail conditions.
The Cadzow Kennels Truck and Warm-up Shack
Josh has a great looking team of dogs, all running in about the 45 to 50 lb. range. One of his dogs this year is only a yearling, but he and his crew are very confident the young one will make the entire race. All seem to be quite impressed with the little fellow.
Here is a photo of Zack, getting his bib together before hooking up his team.
Apparently all of the teams launched on time and had clean starts, though the Quest's "Live Tracker" on their website shows a couple of teams may be hung up near Fort Wainwright, or perhaps the units aren't working properly. I hope it's the latter, as one of those teams is that of Ken Anderson, one of several favorites to win this race.
After the last team left the starting line I headed home for a bite of lunch, and then headed out to Twin Bears Camp in the Chena River State Recreation Area. Twin Bears is the first checkpoint of the race, and I stayed around long enough to watch the two front running teams, those of Zack Steer and local heroine Abby West, check in. Steer had one dog in the basket when he arrived at Twin Bears, but apparently does not intend to drop the dog. Abby had her full team on the gangline.
Zach Steer Arriving at Twin Bears
Abby West Checking In at Twin Bears
Zach and Abby were both bedding down their teams as I left Twin Bears, preparing to give them a rest break. Meanwhile there has been a leader change. Hans Gatt left in first place, followed by Gerry Willowmitzer, Dave Dalton and his "Dalton Gang" and veteran Sonny Lindner.
It looks like we have a dog race going out there.